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Justin Trudeau Canada’s Obama?


By Imogen Grace, staff writer

Canada is on the eve of what could be a monumental political movement. Just as in Barack Obama’s 2008 Presidential campaign, the new leader of Canada’s Liberal Party is bringing a tidal wave of promises to the political process.

Justin Trudeau has become the country’s most popular underdog. Unseating incumbent Bloc MP Vivian Barbot in the 2008 election by a narrow margin of just over 1,000 votes, Trudeau began his unlikely ascent to becoming leader of the Liberal Party.

It was a foretelling boxing match last spring against Conservative Sen. Patrick Brazeau that saw Trudeau reign as the unexpected victor, and had the press dub him, ’The Contender.

It is remarkable that Trudeau has managed to be portrayed as the party’s dark horse, considering his not-so-humble roots. His father, the former Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, left an indelible mark on Canada’s history after 16 non-consecutive years as a charismatic and sometimes controversial leader.

Despite having been born and mostly raised on Ottawa’s 24 Sussex Dr., the young Trudeau stands accused by his opposition of being too inexperienced. One such attack was made by Immigration Minister Jason Kenney. Mr. Trudeau is not in touch with the values or the real issues that face ordinary Canadians, said Kenney, following the third Liberal leadership debate. ’I don’t really know what his background is. I don’t think he’s ever run anything.

This is much of the same discourse that occurred in the 2008 U.S. Presidential Election. During the race between Democrat Sen. Barack Obama and Republican Sen. John McCain, the latter was quoted saying, ’I have the background, knowledge, and judgment to lead this nation; my opponent does not.

McCain wasn’t completely wrong. The President-to-be was then 47 years old, four years older than the 41-year-old Trudeau will be at the 2015 Federal Elections. At that time, he had a career as a civil-rights lawyer, seven years in the Illinois State Senate, served as a U.S. Senator for three years, and published two biographies to leverage his public image.

Trudeau’s resume is even leaner. He began his career with the Liberal Party in 2006, after being appointed to chair a task force for youth renewal in the party. He narrowly won the Papineau, Que. riding in 2008 and won again in 2011 by a larger margin. He has a degree in English Literature from McGill University, and a Bachelor in Education from University of British Columbia. He was chair of Katimavik youth engagement organization, a teacher, a snowboarding coach, and had a stint as an actor in the CBC mini-series, The Great War.

The excitement generated across the country by the charismatic, brown-eyed politician, however, is marked. Since his announcement to run for party leader in October, Trudeau has traveled the country packing auditoriums, signed up over 160,000 new potential voters, and most recently won the Liberal Leadership with almost 22,000 votes more votes than his closest competitor, MP Joyce Murray.

As Conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper currently sits in his seventh year in power, 56 per cent of Canadians are unsatisfied with how he’s running the country. Trudeau’s campaign slogan is ’Be Part of the Change, something he insists his supporters and Canadians are ready for.

Obama pledged the same possibility five years ago when it seemed he might take over office from a President who was often seen as polarizing, disconnected from the public, and had made many contentious decisions. The slogan Change We Can Believe In was used to brand his platform of restoring the U.S. government to an engine that works for the people.

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